Episcopal Church in South Carolina

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This article is about the diocese of the Episcopal Church. For the independent diocese which left the Episcopal Church in 2012, see Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.
Episcopal Church in South Carolina
Ecclesiastical province Province IV
Congregations 35
Rite Episcopal
Current leadership
Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg
Location of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina
Location of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC) is a diocese of the Episcopal Church that covers an area of 24 counties in the eastern part of the state of South Carolina. The western portion of the state forms the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. As a diocese of the Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion and traces its heritage to the beginnings of Christianity.[1]

In a 2012 schism, Bishop Mark Lawrence and the majority of the leaders and parishes of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina withdrew from the national Episcopal Church. The departing group uses the name "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina," although the name is part of an ongoing legal dispute. South Carolina Episcopalians who remain affiliated with the Episcopal Church are using the name "Episcopal Church in South Carolina" as a placeholder until the naming dispute can be resolved. Both groups claim to be the legitimate and legal continuation of the pre-schism diocese, and both groups claim ownership of church property and assets. These competing claims are currently being resolved in court.


Episcopalians in South Carolina trace their church's history to early English settlement in the state.

During the years from 2000 to 2012, there were increasing tensions with the national church, particularly following the consecration of Mark J. Lawrence as bishop in 2008.[2] These tensions ultimately resulted in a September 18, 2012, finding by the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops Disciplinary Board that Lawrence had "violated his ordination vows to ‘conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church’ and to ‘guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church,’ as well as his duty to ‘well and faithfully perform the duties of [his] office in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of this Church,’".[3] On October 15, 2012, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori notified Lawrence of this decision. She also notified him that he was not allowed to "perform any Episcopal, ministerial or canonical acts" until further action by the House of Bishops.

The Bishops Disciplinary Board cited three specific actions by Lawrence which, it stated, showed his abandonment of his ordination vows. First, his support at the 2010 diocesan convention for efforts to "qualify the diocese’s accession to the Constitution of the Church and to remove any provision acceding to the canons of the Church, as well as proposals to amend the diocesan Canons to remove all references to the canons of the Church." Second, a set of 2011 amendments to the South Carolina nonprofit corporate charter of the diocese, filed by Lawrence, "deleting all references to the [Episcopal] Church and obedience to its Constitution and canons." Third, in November 2011, the issuance of quitclaim deeds for the real estate of every diocesan parish, in violation of the Church's Dennis Canon. [4]

According to Reverend Jim Lewis, the canon to the ordinary for the Diocese of South Carolina, the dispute was over Schori's increasing acceptance of relativism in the church. [5] Another minister in the Diocese noted the theologians that corrupted the Episcopal Church in the 19th century created the problems that have resulted in the current split.[citation needed]

With tensions growing between the diocese and the larger Episcopal Church, the diocese's standing committee had passed two corporate resolutions on October 2, 2012, designed to conditionally disaffiliate the diocese from the Episcopal Church and call for a special diocesan convention. These resolutions were to take effect if the national church took disciplinary action against Bishop Lawrence or other diocesan leadership.[6] On October 15, when Bishop Lawrence was notified of the Disciplinary Board's finding, diocesan leadership stated that the two resolutions were triggered.[7] The special convention was held in Charleston at St. Philip’s Church on November 17, 2012. The convention affirmed the disassociation of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina from the national Episcopal Church, and amended the diocesan constitution and canons to remove all references to the Episcopal Church.[8]

The Episcopal Church, however, disputed these actions, stating that under canon law an Episcopal diocese cannot withdraw itself from the larger Episcopal Church. In a "Pastoral Letter" to the diocese, Presiding Bishop Schori wrote that "While some leaders have expressed a desire to leave The Episcopal Church, the Diocese has not left. It cannot, by its own action. The alteration, dissolution, or departure of a diocese of The Episcopal Church requires the consent of General Convention, which has not been consulted."[9] She further wrote that the South Carolina diocese "continues to be a constituent part of The Episcopal Church, even if a number of its leaders have departed. If it becomes fully evident that those former leaders have, indeed, fully severed their ties with The Episcopal Church, new leaders will be elected and installed by action of a Diocesan Convention recognized by the wider Episcopal Church, in accordance with our Constitution and Canons."

Lawsuits were filed over church property, names, and symbols; the legal disputes remain unresolved. The Episcopal Church re-organized the diocese of the national church in South Carolina with those parishes, priests, and church members who wanted to remain affiliated with the national church. They are currently using the name "Episcopal Church in South Carolina," since a temporary court order has allowed the departing group to continue using the name "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." On January 26, 2013, a special convention of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina elected The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, retired Bishop of East Tennessee, as the new bishop provisional of the diocese.[10]


These are the bishops who have served the South Carolina diocese connected to the Episcopal Church:[11]

  1. Robert Smith (1795–1801)
  2. Theodore Dehon (1812–1817)
  3. Nathaniel Bowen (1818–1839)
  4. Christopher E. Gadsden (1840–1852)
  5. Thomas F. Davis (1853–1871)
  6. William B. W. Howe (1871–1894)
    * Ellison Capers, Coadjutor Bishop (consecrated 1893)
  7. Ellison Capers (1894–1908)
    * William A. Guerry, Coadjutor Bishop (consecrated 1907)
  8. William A. Guerry (1908–1928)
    * Kirkman George Finlay, Coadjutor Bishop (1921–1922)
  9. Albert S. Thomas (1928–1944)
  10. Thomas N. Carruthers, (1944–1960)
  11. Gray Temple (1961–1982)
    * C. FitzSimons Allison, Coadjutor Bishop (consecrated 1980)
  12. C. FitzSimons Allison, (1982–1990)
    * G. Edward Haynsworth, (Assistant, 1985–1990)
  13. Edward L. Salmon, Jr. (1990–2008)
    * William J. Skilton, Suffragan Bishop (1996–2006)
  14. Mark Lawrence (2008–2012)
  15. Charles G. vonRosenberg (2013-present)

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